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U.S. 2012 Wind Power Reached Record 13,124 Megawatts, Beats Gas

U.S. Wind Power Accounted for 6% of Generation Capacity in 2012
Turbines stand at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm in Whitewater, California. Photographer: Konrad Fiedler/Bloomberg

U.S. wind-energy developers added a record 13,124 megawatts of turbines last year, beating natural gas to become the largest new source of power generation for the first time.

In the fourth quarter alone, 8,380 megawatts of wind farms were completed, more than double that of any prior quarter, according to the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association. That amounted to 42 percent of new power supplies, more than any electricity source including natural gas, coal, solar and nuclear. topping natural gas

Installations accelerated last quarter as developers raced to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was due to expire Dec. 31, and have slumped this year, according to Rob Gramlich, the industry group’s interim chief executive officer. There are 43 megawatts of wind turbines currently under construction in two states. The production tax credit was extended for one year Jan. 1.

“We’re getting back to business,” Gramlich said today on a conference call without predicting how much wind capacity may be installed this year. “Developers are calling manufacturers for turbine contracts and talking to utilities about power purchase agreements.”

The U.S. has more than 60 gigawatts of wind energy capacity in operation, mostly in Texas, California and Iowa. That’s enough to supply about 14.7 million homes, AWEA said.

Wind development was expected to drop as much as 88 percent this year to about 1,500 megawatts if the tax credit hadn’t been renewed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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